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In Search Of Space

United Artists UAS-5567
Released: March 1972

It all started with Pink Floyd...No! It hardly started with Pink Floyd, though it may have started with Jules Verne or Cyrano de Bergerac. Musically, the rock & roll edition of the extraterrestrial impulse probably began somewhere long about Chuck Berry's "Our Little Rendezvous": "We'll build a spaceship/With a heavy payload/And we'll go beep! beep! beep! way out in the wide open blue!"

But that was only the Fifties when the rocket roll was just beginning, fertilized cross-idiomatically by the movies, which were grinding out such certified brain-busts as Forbidden Planet, Destination Moon, The Angry Red Planet, etc. etc. etc. With the coming of the Sixties the real age of the Starship commenced in rock & roll. Pink Floyd were first to couple it with the new sonic zoom technolorock, of course, but such hardy perennials as the MC5 ("Starship"), Black Sabbath ("Into the Void") and Deep Purple ("Space Truckin'") wasted no time in jumping on board. And least we forget, Wild Man Fischer himself honored the genre with an entry called "Rocket Rock," whose singular lyrics ("The sun rocks/The moon rocks/Everybody's doin' the rocket rock") put to shame the diarrhetic broadsides of Paul Kantner, who tended to come off in his mellower moments like Bing Crosby: "Have you seen the stars tonight?/Would you like to go up on A deck and look at them with me?"

Hawkwind - In Search Of Space
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.

Well, Sun Ra was into this stuff when some of these wimpoids were still wettin' their knickers, but Sun Ra at his best was no match for Pink Floyd at their best, because Sun Ra had too many notes, always too many notes just like a lot of those jazz cats, whereas Pink Floyd only had about three. At their best, that is; later they wandered off off down the garden path with symphony orchestras and such, becoming altogether too prolix and a lot less nifty than in the days when they were writing songs with titles like "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun."

And Pink Floyd still take the sweepstakes in the rock race for space, but hold onto yer Buck Rogers beanies, kinder, because Hawkwind are coming up fast. If Pink Floyd were setting the controls for the heart of the sun, Hawkwind have the consummate sense of the present decadent state of astropolitics to stick to their rayguns in maintaining that "We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago." This is music for the astral apocalypse, and even if it does contain "Master of the Universe," their sound as well as their message is much closer to Pink Floyd than Black Sabbath, with a little bit of Sun Ra thrown in even, as in "You Shouldn't Do That" with its sonic squiggles that I am not at all sure are alto sax rather than audio generator or synthesizer.

Meaning to say that what this album, friends, is Psychedelic from the cover to the fadeout of the last groove. The music itself mostly sounds pretty the same: monotone jammings with hypnotic rhythms and solos unravelling of into...well, space. The synthesizers warble, woof and scream and gurgle like barfing computers, the drums pound, and the singers chant Unknown Tongue rebops reminiscent of such blasts from the past, present and future as the first Mothers album, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat featuring Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids, and Germany's great psych-overload band Amon Dyul II, of Yeti and Dance of the Lemmings fame. As well as the Stones' "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)," which may be at least as much as a source point as Pink Floyd.

If you're glad that most of that stuff is part of the past now, you'll probably think this album is a pile of dogshit. If, on the other hand, you remember the absolute glee of filling your skull with all those squawks and shrieks and backwards-tapes and telegraphic open-tuned bridges between indescribable inner worlds conjured best neither by this music nor psychedeliteful elixirs but rather by a fortuitous combination of the two -- if that was one of your favorite eras of Western Civilization, then you'd better glom onto this album, which features not only the previously described musical treks but the most beautiful packaging I have seen in some time and an elaborate 24 page booklet called "The Hawkwind Log," enclosed to give you something to read while blowing out a few more chromosomes and chock full of prose, poetry, robots, DNA molecules, marijuana, novas, Stonehenge, 2001, gurus, phallic rocketships and tits 'n' ass, which may not be rock 'n' roll, but certainly beats "Fire 'n' Rain."

- Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone, 6/22/72.

Bonus Reviews!

It's been an eternity since I've writhed to a record on a physical level, but I still recall fondly those stoned hours spent engrossed in Butterfield's East-West and Love's Revelation. In Search Of Space recalls those days for me and at the same time serves as a sentinel of a fast-growing genre of rock; science fiction, experimental rock. This album is light years ahead of Hawkwind's first and compares favorably to Paul Kantner's Blows Against The Empire like 2001: A Space Odyssey compares to It Came From Outer Space. Hawkwind has learned, and taken what it could from such predecessors as Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, built their music around an original concept and have produced an exceptional package.

I say package because included with the record is the "Hawkwind Log": a Whole Earth-catalogue-type compilation of quotes, pictures and data, as well as the daily journal of the two-dimensional spacecraft "Hawkwind." It notes that the remains of the spacecraft were found near the South Pole in July of last year. The log is original, intriguing: far above the usual quality of such album enclosures.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review: Space Ritual

Album Review:
Hall of the Mountain Grill

Hawkwind Lyrics

Hawkwind Videos

The music itself is an adventure in sound, full of raw excitement, suspense and rich climaxes. Though it isn't totally pleasing to the ear, I enjoyed all of it as I was drawn into its atmosphere. Of course, to fully obtain that effect, I suggest a slightly altered state of consciousness and, if available, a good pair of headphones. You will learn as you get to know the record which points to grit your teeth and clutch the chair and even when to slowly increase the volume to coincide with the final climax. The rest of the time you can sit there, oblivious to all around you, reading and listening. In Search Of Space is totally unique; worth owning simply for the instant audio-visual experience you can have. It has something no other record can give you.

- Jeff Walker, Phonograph Record, 5/72.

In this, their second LP, Hawkwind nearly brings to fruition its claim of being a truly "mind-expanding" rock group. Their music is forcefully compelling, electronic and repetitive. Listening to this LP is virtually a "trip" in itself, an air of decadent sarcasm prevails. This LP is essentially an auditory Star Trek. Highlights are "We Took The Wrong Step" and "You Know You're Only Dreaming."

- Billboard, 1972.

With the whoosh of synthesizers and audio generators propelling them into the nether reaches of circa-'68 space rock, Hawkwind extends the limits of what were once familiar musical frontiers. Without the hysteria of pseudo-psychedelia, they explore the expressive possibilities of such once-trite techniques as phase distortion and frequency filtering. Makes you wonder what the Stones' Satanic Majesties would sound like if it came out today instead of way back when.

- Steve Ditlea, Circus, 7/72.

Psychedelic rangers from England go one up on Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream, and maybe Sun Ra too. Their best studio date.

- Michael G. Nastos, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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